Throughout the 2011 season the Havre North Stars American Legion baseball team had its share of rough patches. But after a solid start to their season, a tough losing streak in the middle and another solid run at the end, the North Stars enter the postseason in pretty good form.
Today-Sunday the North Stars will join the rest of the Northern District in Great Falls for the district tournament.
The Great Falls Electrics are the No. 1 seed with a record of 25-0, while Fort MacLeod will enter as the No. 2 seed with a record of 19-8 and Havre will enter as the No. 3 seed with a record of 14-14. Medicine Hat is the No. 4 seed with a record of 12-15, while Vauxhall is the No. 5 seed with a record of 11-17 and Lethbridge enters as the No. 6 seed with a record of 10-18. The Great Falls Stallions will also be in attendance as the No. 7 seed with a 9-19 record, as will No. 8 Tri County with a record of 8-17.
In round one action the North Stars will kick things off this morning against Lethbridge. Medicine Hat will also take on Vauxhall at 12:30 p.m., while Fort MacLeod will face the Stallions at 4 p.m. and Tri County will face the Electrics at 7:30 p.m.
If Havre wins in the first round the North Stars will move on to face the winner of the Fort MacLeod and Stallions game at 4 p.m. on Friday. If Havre fails to win its first-round game they will drop to the loser out bracket and face the losers of the Fort MacLeod and Stallions game at 9 a.m. on Friday.
And if the North Stars are fortunate enough to get there, the championship game will be on Sunday at 2 p.m.
For a small stretch of time the North Stars weren’t sure where they would land heading into the post season. But going 3-1 in the last four league games of the regular season, the North Stars locked down the No. 3 seed. In the four games at home, Lethbridge defeated the North Stars 21-12, before the North Stars defeated Lethbridge 8-5, and Medicine Hat 15-5 and 8-5 to close out the season. The three wins were just what the North Stars needed, giving them a .500 record and a third-place seed heading into the tournament.
Now hoping for a berth into the state tournament, the North Stars know exactly what they need to do, both offensively and defensively.
Brandon Smith, Justin Jensen, Garreth Bernard and Mark Vukasin have really stood out on the mound this season. And with the very limited depth of this year's North Star squad, their ability to go late in a game or even pitch a full game is going to be crucial.
Errors, let downs and mistakes will also take a toll this weekend if the North Stars can’t limit them. They have played games with minimal errors this season, but they have also seen their share of games with five plus errors as well. With teams like the Electrics and Fort Macleod in the field, both proving they can get hits and score runs, the North Stars have to play solid defense at every position.
Good at bats are also a must have.
Smith has led the North Stars at the plate and leads in RBIs. But Thurman Holdsclaw, Kolby Sukut, Jensen, Bernard, Vukasin and Spencer Morkrid have also done well this season. The late addition of Chris Vukasin has also been a plus this season, showing he can lay down the sacrifice bunt if needed.
With the level of play at the Northern District tournament, the North Stars will just have to play solid baseball all the way around. And opening up against Lethbridge this morning, the solid play will have to start immediately.